'You need vision, enthusiasm and the right support and your career possibilities are almost limitless'
Steve Wright has been a nurse for over 21 years. He first decided that he wanted to become a nurse when he was volunteering with St John Ambulance as a teenager, After qualifying in 1993 his first job was in a colorectal surgical ward where he was attracted to the holistic care of surgical patients. He joined the Trust in 2004 after working in a range of nursing roles and he is now Lead Specialist Practitioner in a tertiary colorectal surgical ward at St Mark's Hospital.
I always knew I wanted more managerial experience” said Steve. ”I wasn’t as academically minded as I could have been at school but I was always practical and had a really strong interest in the medical aspects of nursing, so an advanced practitioner career path was the route I decided to take. There are three career paths in nursing – management, teaching and practical and I always want to be practical”.
His route to becoming a specialist practitioner began when one of the consultants realised that there weren’t enough trainee doctors in the system to meet future need, so a new role of specialist practitioner was created. At the time there was lots of morbidity following colorectal surgery and patients often were re-admitted back to ITU. “It’s fair to say that people were sceptical at first”, said Steve “but then they quickly saw the value. We completed an audit a year after the role was introduced and saw drops in mortality and a significant decrease in ITU admission rates”. The role has since been rolled out in other areas – there are now four specialist practitioners on Steve’s ward and 12 across the Trust in areas such as general surgery and vascular care; in their distinctive red uniforms, the Specialist Practitioners are fondly known as the ‘red army’ to his colleagues.
It is clear that creating the role has led to an increase in positive outcomes for patients but Steve has also received very positive feedback from patients who appreciate having someone who looks after them from admission to discharge and beyond. He has had his own business cards printed which he gives to patients when they are discharged; a professional but highly personal touch – patients can can call him if ever they have any problems. When Steve does receive calls, he undertakes a telephone triage service, “I can direct them to get urgent care if there are warning signs”, says Steve; “I am trained to recognise the early indicators of complications, and can review patients in my rapid access clinic on the ward, I also feel that patients are more likely to call if it is someone they know – otherwise they may wait until it is too late”.
It is clear that Steve loves his work. “Every day is different - there is always something going on in Frederick Salmon ward”, he laughs. He gets a sense of achievement from finishing a busy shift where he has been able to deal with all situations that have been thrown at him. “I am on the doctor rota as there aren’t enough junior doctors to cover weekends – I am often required to make very quick decisions”. Steve didn’t ever think that he would have such a responsible role as a nurse - “these types of roles did not exist when I was training”, he said.
The training he has received has been invaluable to his progression. “I feel the Trust is highly supportive of nurses undertaking training – in some other Trusts nurses have to undertake training in their own time or pay for it”. For someone who does not feel that they are academically minded, Steve certainly has a lot of qualifications, completing his NMP course in 2008 in order to become a nurse prescriber. “I must admit that the course was hard work and I needed to get 100 per cent in maths. But being able to prescribe is vital to my practice as I do not have to spend my day running around looking for a doctor”. Steve has also undertaken a qualification which enables him to authorise blood and he has worked with the Trust blood transfusion lead to develop the policy. “It’s unusual for a non-haematology nurse to do this but it complements my other skills well and I often put them to good use. For post-operative patients I will carry out their blood test, interpret the results, prescribe blood if needed, and then I can see if they need any other medication”.
So what is next for Steve in his career as it seems that he is not one for stagnating? “I am starting a Masters in Healthcare in October” he says, “that will definitely be a lot of work!”. Steve was also asked what he sees as the next step for advanced nursing roles. “I am keen to get practitioners into theatre assisting with operations – this could address deficits in the future medical workforce”. Steve would recommend the Trust to any nurse who is intent on developing their nursing career. “You need vision, enthusiasm and the right support and your career possibilities are almost limitless”.